Pesticide Death
The extremely tragic pesticide deaths and hospitalisations in Yavatmal district and other parts of Vidarbha region of Maharashtra in recent times constitute one of the biggest such tragedies at the international level and are bound to attract worldwide concern, particularly among the growing number of people and experts who are very worried about the fast increasing hazards in India's agriculture and food system. Are killers of pests turning into killers of human beings? Who is responsible for this? Who is allowing this to happen?

Week after week hundreds of farmers and farm workers had been coming to government hospitals (some others must have sought private medical care) with serious complaints of pesticide poisoning.

Even before this tragedy Yavatmal district has been widely perceived as a highly sensitive district due to the very large number of suicide deaths taking place here. Hence a system of monitoring very closely the farm scene and problems of farmers should have been already in place here. It is a glaring failure of governance if despite the existence of such instructions the recent poisonings could not bring forth adequate remedial action for a very long time.

This is an area known for growing a GM (Genetically Modified) crop Bt Cotton . Most of the pesticide spraying is related to cotton crop here. Problems relating to farmers cultivating Bt cotton here and elsewhere have been highlighted time and again.

According to a report by eminent scientists comprising the Independent Science Panel, "The consistent finding from independent research and on-farm surveys since 1999 is that genetically modified (GM) crops have failed to deliver the promised benefits of significantly increasing yields or reducing herbicide and pesticide use... The instability of transgenic lines has plagued the industry from the beginning, and this may be responsible for a string of major crop failures".

At the time of the Bt Brinjal debate in India in 2009-10 a letter written by 17 internationally reputed scientists to the Prime Minister of India had given an important information -"Recent data from the US department of agriculture has shown a vast increase in herbicide use since the introduction of GM crops tolerant to the application of these agrichemicals".
Bharat Dogra, New Delhi

Vol. 50, No.30, Jan 28 - Feb 03, 2017